Fanny Handel, a retiree in Queens, N.Y., was stunned to receive a notice in 2015 telling her she owed $92,000 in taxes on her traditional individual retirement account. Like many Americans, she thought the account was tax-free.

But she was wrong. It is entirely possible to owe annual tax on a tax-deferred traditional IRA or tax-free Roth IRA, even on an allowed investment..

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